Sunday, May 27, 2007

Moving along

Sorry to be slow to post - I have been sidetracked playing with Flickr. Within a week or 2 I have uploaded about 2400 images - can you tell that photography is my other hobby?

I am happy to report that my elbow has been cleared for all tasks, even building the rock wall in my front yard. I can also report, if not a finished object, at least a benchmark: I have finished spinning the neppy purple merino/mohair from which I will knit purple fuzzy mittens. Despite my earlier concerns about the neppiness, it came out great. Here is a picture of the finished skeins. (The color is a bit bluer than the picture shows - very medium purple.) After washing and whomping it is even softer. (Washing and whomping, for the uninitiated, is purposefully fulling the yarn in hot and cold soapy water, then wacking the skein against a railing to make the fiber ends pop out. You end up with a fuzzy, but durable yarn.) Initially I intended to pair the yarn up with a contrasting yarn to knit a Fair Isle pattern, but instead I think I'll use a textured stitch pattern. For extra warmth I might add a carried stitch to the inner layer of the mittens, but I don't want another color to interfere with the glorious purple-ness of the outside. This picture is a closer color match.

I am returning to my stash-busting with an intention to spin through some of the many fleece in my stash. Although I have several projects on bobbins, right now, they are all being spun on the Ashford Traditional. I am off to a spin-in at the park tomorrow and I needed something to spin on the Kiwi. So I have pulled a dark coffee colored corriedale-cross fleece from the closet and started in. There is a lot of it, so I don't have to worry about running out mid-spin-in anytime soon.

As for the rock wall, I'll get to that eventually.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another busy weekend

I am spinning again at last! Friday evening I gave it a try and now I don't want to stop. I am celebrating by working on a new project. At last weekend's Dye Day I bought 4 oz of purple roving from Wayne. It is 70% Merino and 30% mohair and should become nicely fuzzy with wear. This should be just the ticket to finally make my own pair of purple fuzzy mittens. I have spun up the first bobbin's worth and am set to start another. At first its neppiness was a bit frustrating. Then I relaxed, shifted to a looser, longer draw and just let it pull out the fiber as it twisted. A little unevenness will just add to the texture and not be a liability in mittens.
I am spinning fairly fine, with a plan to knit double-layered mittens on approximately size 3 needles. Small stitches means small holes for minimal snow perforation and double-layered means warm. Even warmer when I add a color-stranded pattern to the outer layer. What color? Don't know yet.
Saturday I went out to Sharon's to spin, chat, eat and particularly, to plan the workshop we taught at the Spanish Springs Library on Sunday. Ian made us his fabulous burritos and we sat with our wheels on the porch. The weather was perfect, the garden was full of birds, and a small herd of 3 dogs napped and milled about our feet. In the late afternoon I took a brief tromp through the sagebrush to get some photos of the desert in bloom. In addition to pretty spring greens and a blue nevada sky, I saw lots of cool lichens.

Today I packed up the little car with fibers and fiber tools, put the painted Kiwi in the passenger seat, put the top down and zoomed out to the Spanish Springs Library. Sharon and I gave a 90 minute (or so) overview of fibers, fiber-preparation, spinning, dyeing etc. to a smallish audience of 9 knitters.
Now I am home and rethinking the Pembrokeshire Pathways Socks. The pattern has an obvious error at the beginning of the heel flap. I checked online for a fix, but only found someone else complaining about it. Guessing might mean a later massive frog (ripping back, for you non-knitting types) so I have decided to substitute my usual short-row heel and toe, while continuing the cable and eyelet pattern down the instep. Pictures later as I progress.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dye Day, Blooming Broom, and More Socks

Yesterday was a Guild meeting, followed by a natural dye workshop. It was SO much fun! Being still unable to spin, I only had three ancient, beginner spun skeins that I had dug out of the bottom of a bin. I'm glad I brought them because I now have the makings for a very cute hat! Linda was both hostess and instructor, and she did a great job. Her back yard has a great view of the mountains and a lush lawn to sit on. Lots of folks had lent dye pots, crock pots and burners so there were all kinds of dyes to try. I can't remember them all, but they included cochineal, walnut hulls, moss, brazilwood, madder, onion skins, tulips, and a bunch of others. And after dyeing, we could try using modifiers to shift the color. Those included ammonia, iron, tin and copper. My favorite bit of magic was when I dipped my dull-salmon brazilwood-dyed skein in ammonia and it instantly turned deep purple. Sharon, being more methodical than some of the rest of us, ended up with this fabulous set of colors. I am now enthusiastic to fill up my freezer with all kinds of potential dyestuffs in preperation for the next natural dye day.

Along with the great spring weather has come the flowering of Scotch broom. Uck! Yes, they are beautiful to behold while blooming, but they stink. And since they have planted them all over Reno, including along the Interstate, it is impossible to get away from the thick, cloying stench. The one in my front yard is no exception. I have tried several times to eliminate it, yet it just comes right back up.
I'm afraid to dig too agressively, since its roots are mingled with one of my favorite plants, my Lena's broom. Both are explosions of color right now. I had intended to plant several more Lena's broom this year, but alas, no digging holes until my elbow fully recovers. The white patches on the Lena's blossoms are frost damage.

On the knitting front, I have started a new pair of socks. The lace pattern I had planned to use will have to wait, since the gauge could not be met with the yarn I had. So I am knitting Pembrokeshire Pathways Socks using the yarn Sharon returned to me. This is the first time I have done cables in anything other than a swatch. They are coming along, but the cabling is slow and I think I would like to make a pair of socks using just the eyelet columns. Still, I press on and with each row my elbow gets a little stronger. Tonight I may try spinning a little.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Stash-Buster Socks Complete (and then some)

Knitting only a few rounds at a time was slow, but I finally finished knitting the ugly (thanks for the tactful comments, but yes, ugly) Stash-Buster Socks. Here they are in their full glory. I left them on the coffee table for a few days, just to see if they would suddenly exhibit previously hidden charm. They didn't. So to the dyepot they went. My dyepot and dye-crockpot are over at Linda's awaiting Saturday's Dye Workshop, so I prowled the house and garage in search of a container for dyeing. (Waiting until after the weekend did not occur to me.) The best I could come up with was a galvanized pail that once held a short-lived rosemary bush. I rinsed it out and tested it for leaks. Happily unleaky, I put it on the stove with a goodly amount of Landscape Mountain Blue. I threw the socks in and left them to simmer, anticipating the lovely colors that would be achieved with the delicate application of a small amount of blue. Sure, the galvanized pail might affect the color, but I didn't intend to leave them in very long.

Then I got distracted and completely forgot about the socks. Half an hour later I pulled out DARK blue socks. Only a little of the dye rinsed out. Nothing delicate about the colors now, but still more attractive than they started.

And the decorative pail works better as a dyepot than it ever did as a planter.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On the Verge of Lots of Things

Just as spring should be, it is the beginning of lots of things. My elbow is slowly healing and I will soon be able to finish the stash-buster socks and consider my next sock project. I like to have something like socks or mittens continually on the needles for carrying about. There are some lace socks in the book "Lace Style" that I would like to try, but lace sort of defeats the purpose of carry-about knitting, which needs to be done in social spaces. For a month or two I have had the leftover yarn Sharon gave back to me sitting by my computer. It wants to be my next pair of socks, and might even look good in lace. I still have not tried spinning since I tend to spin in a modified long-draw with the fiber held off to the right. This technique would be extra hard on the left elbow. I need to not over-stress it if I want it fully working in time for Black Sheep Gathering.

On the concept that there is nothing wrong with my right hand, I will soon be launching into renovation of the outside of the little trailer. For that project I have purchased a variety of wire brushes and a stock of 120 grit sandpaper for the electric sander. The plan (for the moment) is to use the brushes to remove loose paint, sand over these areas to soften the edges, wash all surfaces with something like TSP, fill dents, replace loose nails with screws, tape, cover with Zinzer123 metal primer, then paint with elastomeric masonry paint. Why masonry paint, you ask? Because this special paint not only waterproofs, but it remains elastic enough to not crack when the metal surface expands and contracts with the temperature.
This is, of course, a theory. And the recommendation of my favorite paint guy at Home Depot. I have placed a query on a vintage trailer message board to see if anyone has experience to confirm or refute. The masonry paint is tintable and comes in 63 colors, a far better choice than the basic white offered in standard RV roof paint. Once I have painted the entire trailer blue, I can then go to town painting fluffy clouds and lush lavender plants. I figure the whole process may go over into next spring, but I would like to get the base color on by the end of the summer so I can feel confident about remaining waterproof. Tarping is always an option, but it is windy enough where I live that the flapping of the tarp can damage the trailer sides.